A Mystery Book Haul (The Green Hand Bookshop)

The Green Hand Bookshop has been a topic of a post here on the blog before, and while it plays a very large part in this post, I’m going to be focusing primarily on the books I recently ordered from this secondhand book seller. I ordinarily don’t purchase enough books to dedicate entire book haul posts to (in my mind), but this one is different than any other book order I’ve made, because I had very little idea of what was going to be in the box when I opened it.

Throughout this pandemic, this era of stay-at-home orders and trying to do a little more for the small businesses I’m lucky to be surrounded by, I’ve been perusing the shelves of The Green Hand Bookshop – well, the photos of the shelves owner Michelle has been posting on Instagram and Facebook. Michelle has also been offering mystery book bundles, for which the customer chooses their budget, shares what genres, authors, and/or subjects they are interested in, and Michelle handpicks the books and mails them out.

This past week I finally decided to participate, so I emailed Michelle with my preferences, which I’ve copied here:

  • I’m very interested in mystery/crime stories like those by Agatha Christie, Mary Stewart, and Arthur Conan Doyle. I also love hard fantasy standalones and series, and anything related to fairy tales.
  • While I have read a couple of books by those specific authors, the only ones I own are (Agatha Christie) The Man in the Brown Suit, Ordeal by Innocence, (ACD) The Hound of the Baskervilles, and (Mary Stewart) The Moon-Spinners – so I would prefer not to get those titles. I also don’t need anything by Frank Herbert, J.R.R. Tolkien, Neil Gaiman, or Stephen King. And in the chance that you have one, I am not in need of a bind up of Grimm’s fairy tales.

And reader, I could not be happier with the books I received.

First of all, the box arrived (yesterday, Friday) one day after my last email correspondence, which is one day earlier than expected. Does that have anything to do with the magic of the bookstore and the books inside? No, but it sort of does, right?

Second, included with the (wrapped!) books was a bat sticker that says “Hang in There”, three bookmarks, and a business card with personalized well wishes scrawled on the back from Michelle.

Third, the books. As I unwrapped each of the three bundles, my joy grew and grew. And when I saw the small sticky notes attached to each, quickly explaining why all of the books were chosen, I couldn’t help but cry. If this sounds like an exaggerated response to you, I get it. But I am a sap, and small touches, messages, and thoughtful actions always have that effect on me, especially when it comes to book recommendations and bookish gifts.

Finally, I’ll stop rambling and show off the books I received in my mystery box (the summaries are from the backs of the books unless otherwise specified):

The Clue of the Judas Tree 
Leslie Ford

This Dell Mystery edition is so charming, and I’m excited for my first introduction to Leslie Ford’s mysteries (Leslie Ford is a pseudonym).

(From Goodreads) Published a few years after the 1929 Crash of Wall Street, the murder victim is Duncan Trent, a millionaire financier. The immediate suspect is a shell-shocked veteran of The Great War, although several others are soon revealed to have motive. The setting is a country estate between Baltimore and Washington D.C. Baltimore detective Lieutenant Joseph Kelly is charged with solving the mystery.

This is a straight detective story presenting a multitude of clues combined with romance and Gothic dark foreboding.

Deryni Rising
Katherine Kurtz

Any Ballantine Book is welcome here! This is a start of a series – quite a large series, in fact – so I’m hoping this is also the start of a fun, fantastical reading journey.

A sweeping tale of a world parallel to ninth century Wales, Deryni Rising tells of the warring factions in the kingdom of Gwynedd, and in particular of a powerful Deryni sorceress who contends with the Duke of Corwyn, Lord General Alaric Anthony Morgan, himself half Deryni and protector to Kelson, son of King Brion. 

Postern of Fate
Agatha Christie

What a delight to find an Agatha Christie novel bundled in among these other gems (and a Bantam Books edition at that). I was even more delighted to find out that this is a Tommy and Tuppence mystery – I very recently read (listened to) my first T&T mystery (The Secret Adversary) and loved it, so the timing is just miraculously wonderful.

Mary Jordan did not die naturally. Underlined words in an old children’s book spell out a chilling message from the past. Who was Mary Jordan? Who wrote the message? How did poor Mary die? Tuppence and Tommy Beresford rummage through the leavings in their new home, unearthing singular evidence of murder and espionage concealed in children’s toys, secreted in furniture, encoded in books. They then plumb the minds of the aged pensioners who are the last living contacts with a long-ago incident that shook the sleepy English village of Hollowquay to its roots—an incident whose deadly legacy will threaten Tuppence and Tommy’s future if they dare solve the mystery of Mary Jordan’s unnatural demise. 

The Ivy Tree
Mary Stewart

My first (and since then, only) undertaking of Mary Stewart novels was The Moon-Spinners, and I could not have loved it more. I flew through it during last October’s Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon, and I hope to do the same with this story.

If Mary Grey looked so much like the missing heiress, why should she not be an heiress? To the lonely young woman—living in a dreary furnished room, faced with an uncertain future—the impersonation offered intriguing possibilities. And so plain Mary Grey became the glamorous Annabel Winslow. But she did not live happily ever after. In fact she almost did not live at all. Because someone wanted Annabel Winslow missing…permanently. 

Fires of the Faithful and Turning the Storm
Naomi Kritzer

Another fantasy series that is new to me; The blurb from Katherine Kurtz on the cover of Turning the Storm heightens my excitement for reading both books.

(Fires of the Faithful) For sixteen-year-old Eliana, life at her conservatory of music is a pleasant interlude between youth and adulthood, with the hope of a prestigious Imperial Court appointment at the end. But beyond the conservatory walls is a land blighted by war and inexplicable famine and dominated by a fearsome religious order known as the Fedeli, who are systematically stamping out all traces of the land’s old beliefs. Soon not even the conservatory walls can hold out reality. When one classmate is brutally killed by the Fedeli for clinging to the forbidden ways and another is kidnapped by the Circle—the mysterious and powerful mages who rule the land—Eliana can take no more. Especially not after she learns one of the Circle’s most closely guarded secrets.

Now, determined to escape the Circle’s power, burning with rage at the Fedeli, and drawn herself to the beliefs of the Old Way, Eliana embarks on a treacherous journey to spread the truth. And what she finds shakes her to her core: a past destroyed, a future in doubt, and a desperate people in need of a leader—no matter how young or inexperienced…

The Unfinished Clue
Georgette Heyer

Another Bantam Book with a synopsis full of quirky words and phrases, an idiosyncratic tone, and a few questions – questions I can’t wait to learn the answers to.

Sir Arthur Billington-Smith was nobody’s idea of the perfect host. In fact he was absolutely frightful. He bullied his wife, grumped at his guests, refused gleefully to help out an indigent friend, and positively blew his stack when his wayward son took up with a nightclub dancer who was definitely N.Q.O.C. (Not Quite Our Class.) Is it any wonder that one fine, bright, English June morning Sir Arthur Billington-Smith quite literally became a bloody bore when he was firmly stabbed in the back with a pretty little Chinese dagger? And is it any wonder that dev’lishly attractive Inspector Harding from London thought everyone was guilty?

The Nine Tailors
Dorothy L. Sayers

Another new-to-me author whose Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries are popular (the internet tells me). Dorothy Sayers is also known for her translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy, as well as numerous other works.

The nine tellerstrokes from the belfry of an ancient country church toll out the death of an unknown man and call the famous Lord Peter Wimsey to one of his most brilliant cases. Steeped in the atmosphere of a quiet parish in the strange, flat fen-country of East Anglia, this is a tale of suspense, character, and mood by an author the critics rate as one of the great masters of the mystery novel.

The Maid of the North: Feminist Folk Tales from Around the World
Ethel Johnston Phelps with illustrations by Lloyd Bloom

This was the final book in the last wrapped stack, and it was definitely the one to put me over the edge into overwhelming happiness. If you are not new to my blog, you are likely aware of my Reading Grimm’s Fairy Tales project, as well as my interest in fairy tales and folklore outside the Grimm sphere, so to add another collection to my compendium is thrilling. There are a total of 21 tales in this volume, and “approximately seventeen different ethnic cultures are represented.” (from the introduction)

There you have it. I am incredibly grateful for each of these books, and for the bit of fun this mystery box process has inserted into my weekend. What a memorable treat.

Are any of these titles and/or authors familiar to you? Do any of them catch your eye? I would love to hear your thoughts, and also let me know if this mystery box concept is something you’ve heard of or participated in! I look forward to your comments and in the meantime, I will be reminding myself of my immediate TBR which should not be abandoned for these books…


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